Updated: Jan 9, 2020
My husband and I just celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary. During those twenty-one years, we have moved across town to find a better apartment, to a new state to follow a surprise job offer and across the globe to pursue our life goals. All of those fourteen moves, yes fourteen, have provided insight into how to minimize our possessions and figure out what we really need.
In 2000, my husband’s dream job became available and we dove head first into the process of moving to Paris, France. I resigned from my very first teaching job, we ended the lease on our apartment and started the paperwork to move our cat, Sydney. While we were ready to go, in typical French fashion, my husband’s work permit took much longer to process than it took for the movers to box up our worldly possessions. As a result of the French efficiency, were told to move into an extended-stay hotel while we waited for the work visa. I should go back to this hotel to see if they continue to proclaim their daily happy hour themes on a colorful calendar posted on the hotel refrigerator. Who could choose between Mexican Taco Bar and Baked Potato Night?!
In order for us to maintain a somewhat functional life I needed to keep everything with us that would get us through our indefinite hotel stay. By the time we signed our rental agreement in Paris we’d spent a total of six weeks in hotels between our Happy-Hour-Hotel in Wisconsin and three different hotels in Paris. Additionally, we spent two months waiting for our shipment to arrive.
In 2019 it is possible to search the detailed experiences of those moving abroad, join Facebook groups, and even hire a personal coach to help you through the transition. However, in 2000, when we made our first big move abroad, coupled with my Y2K slim-pickins knowledge of how to use the internet, I invented my own whittling down system to understand our bare essentials.
Full disclosure, I’m a freak about cooking. I love to read cooking blogs, watching cooking competitions and plan elaborate meals for my friends and family. So much so that when we received our first married-filing-jointly-tax-bomb, I decided to take a second job working in a kitchen store. It was a job where I learned in depth about kitchen equipment and cooking itself, and enjoyed a 50% discount. Alas, the products were too tempting and I didn’t end up saving as much as I’d expected to help pay off that tax bill.
However, I amassed an amazing collection of pots and pans, knives and other lifetime warranty items that still grace my kitchen. This also led to a kitchen filled with extraneous gadgets and a dish for every canape, olive, and tartlette imaginable.
In order to learn which pieces I used regularly, I created a system in which I placed each item I used during the week into a laundry basket. This included pots, pans, knives, dishes, etc. Then throughout the week I tried to reuse what was already in the basket. To my surprise, I had used a limited number of items. I knew our shipment of household goods would take up to twelve weeks to arrive, so we had to pack in our luggage what we needed to turn a bare Parisian kitchen into something usable for three months. No small feat, but possible now that I was aware of our basic necessities. I wanted to ensure that I would be able to enjoy Parisian markets and shops to their fullest the second we arrived.
Many moves later, I have adopted this technique in other rooms of the house, but the kitchen continues to be the biggest struggle for me. Having a system is the greatest way for me to combat the packing anxiety that still accompanies every move even though we’ve done it so many times. I hope it helps reduce some of your packing anxiety!
April Remfrey is an American special needs consultant living and loving life in Switzerland. April helps globally mobile families as they search for the best school for their child with special needs. Please feel free to share this blog post by giving credit to the author and the website link: www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com